It has been a big week for royal babies.
On Monday 22 July 2013, at 4.24pm Prince William and Princess Kate had a son, George Alexander Louis, whose destiny may well be the future King of England.
- On Sunday 21 July 2013, at 7.08pm my son and daughter-in-law had a baby girl, Annabelle Daisy Marsh, a true princess in every sense of the word. As Paul Harvey said,
“Fathers are what give daughters away to other men who aren’t nearly good enough . . . so they can have grandchildren that are smarter than anybody’s”.
Every grandfather is biased and this is something all you new fathers have to look forward to. Fatherhood is an ever changing continuum. As an older man I respect once said to me, “Once a father, always a father”. Although some things change, your children still call you Dad, while others call you Grandad. If I hang around long enough my children’s children will call me Great Grandad. The same could happen to you. I pray it does.
So when we went in to the hospital to see and cuddle our New Little Princess #5, I got talking to the midwife. Leanne is passionate in her vision to help fathers connect in the birthing process and proceeded to tell us of some of her methods. “Do you mind if I show you?” she asked. “Go ahead!” I enthusiastically replied as this subject has always fascinated me.
Leanne grabbed a bottle of water and pretended to hold it as if it was a new born baby and explained, “Let’s pretend the baby has just been born ten minutes ago. The baby has been enfolded in the mother’s loving embrace for nine months. The mother needs my attention, but baby needs skin on skin contact. It is a shock for the baby to come into this wide open place without human contact, so this is what I do.”
Without another word Leanne grabbed my jumper, pulled it back and pushed the water bottle up underneath my jumper, asking me to look down. Then she said,
“Imagine you are a father looking down at your newborn baby”.
The thought filled my heart with delight and I could see her point. Before heading off on her nursing duties Leanne concluded,
“It is important for fathers to connect with their children as early as possible. It makes for a happier baby and a happier mother.”
My mind suddenly raced back to one of the saddest phone calls I have ever received. It was from a distraught mother looking for my advice on how to help her husband. This mother explained that although he was a good to her, her husband had no desire to be involved with his baby son. His son was now 18 months old and his father refused to hold, cuddle, bathe, play or interact with him in any way, shape or form. When his wife expressed her frustration, he simply said,
“I don’t feel connected to him. He is too young. Perhaps I might when he gets older.”
She just did not know what to do.
This story was pertinent to the conversation with Leanne as she had observed these tendencies of disconnection in fathers with new babies. As a pro-active midwife she had realised the importance of that first connection. As I often say, women understand relationships better than most men. I found Leanne’s insight profoundly inspirational. I think most fathers struggle to connect with their child in the same way that their wife does. Is it any wonder? It’s hard to beat a nine month love embrace, skin on skin! That is why Leanne’s advice as a very experienced obstetric nurse is so valuable for all new fathers and even us grandfathers.
It was not until my daughter in law passed our little princess into my arms that I began to feel that Annabelle Daisy truly is a princess and is more beautiful that any child I have ever met. As I have said before, no, I am not biased.
If you are an expectant father, practice hugging bottles of water, water bottles, teddies and dolls. Get ready in advance for the big day. If you are a new father, skin-on-skin time and playful interaction from Dad is important for your baby’s health, intelligence and future. The social science is on Leanne’s side.
So, what’s the secret? As the great man once said, ‘Just do it’. I’ll add three words, “Do it soon!”
Yours for more royal babies